Cynthia and I set out to plant a new church in Charlotte, North Carolina, by faith. We asked for the Rector of All Saints, Pawleys Island, South Carolina to pray for us and commission us as we left. It was August 6th, 2000.
We believed God had guided us to Charlotte and this work, but we knew almost no one there. We planned that I would continue to lead NAMS from Charlotte, but church planting would be my “tent-making” job.
I had been teaching others about church planting for six years with NAMS. I had planted a church in 1980, and I imagined that I knew what to do. I soon found that the culture of my country had changed dramatically in those twenty years, and I had to learn many new lessons in the large growing city of Charlotte. We prayed much and did the best with what we knew.
What we did know was the power of God and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We knew we had to trust God and live the Scriptures. We believed the NAMS vision for new church planting in North America was from God. We trusted the Holy Spirit to lead us.
On the very day we were sent out, God introduced us to two couples, who were visiting All Saints from Charlotte, who said they wanted to help. One of them gave us a key to their guest room over the garage, and that was our first “home.” Those two couples were foundational to all that came after. They were our first “households of peace.”
Cynthia and I prayed and read the scriptures together every morning, and I went out to meet strangers every day. That prayer time undergirded everything. It was the primary cell. We called the church King of Kings. I told everyone I met we were starting a new church and invited them to join us. I built an email list. I set in motion a ten-week training time for rising leaders on Saturday mornings. I shared the NAMS Vision for planting a new Great Commission Church. When the ten weeks ended, we found a place to meet for worship and began to hold Sunday afternoon services. There were thirteen of us on the first Sunday.
For the next few months I followed up on every new relationship that beckoned, and started a number of small house groups. A seminary student agreed to be a Church Planting Intern, and joined us with his family. We grew to about fifty-two people, when we encouraged the formation of a second church and seventeen people left to plant in another town, with the intern providing their leadership. For the following year we only added one new member. It was a time of testing for us.
With financial assistance of the AMiA we were able to hire a Youth Worker in our third year, and later a tent-making family moved from Florida to help us. We equipped our volunteers to serve wherever possible, and an old friend living in Charlotte agreed to be our worship leader. Another seminarian became a part-time member of the leadership team. We met in three different locations before settling at the local YMCA. That location helped us grow, as did moving our service to Sunday morning.
I established an early version of the NAMS Church Planting Pyramid as the structural framework of the new church: every member in a small disciple-making cell, all leaders growing as part of a leadership community, and Sunday worship. We began a weekly prayer meeting.
For the first two and one-half years, most of my support came through my work with NAMS. But, by the fourth year the church was providing about 80% of my support.
We helped cast vision for many new churches, and were able to help thirteen congregations to begin. By the end of our sixth year we were averaging about one hundred and fifty people at our Sunday Eucharist. It was a wonderful season of ministry, by the Grace of God. It showed us that one congregation, even a small one, with visionary leadership and biblical passion, could start a movement of church planting. It proved to us, again, that God provides for what he calls for.
In February of 2007 we were called away, and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. God had a new assignment for us. Leaving was hard, but God took King of Kings forward as they trusted Jesus. He was, and remains, the leader they needed.
— Rev. Jon C. Shuler
NAMS Servant General